Can you colourise any photo?


Technically speaking, yes – any photo can be colourised but some photos take to the process much better than others. For example, have a look at this picture.

airborne relaxing original 600

This is an ideal image for colourisation, mainly because of how many different shades of grey are visible. This allows for loads of detail to come through and leads to the end result looking great:

 airborne relaxing 600 strapped

By contrast, this photo just doesn’t carry the colour quite as well:

colin and chris 600

While the image itself is large and in great condition, it lacks all those different shades of grey. For example, if you look at their faces you’ll see that there’s not a great deal of variation in tone while the cake is almost pure white.

 colin and chris 2 600 strapped

This leads to a much ‘flatter’ looking image that contains large areas of very uniform colour. This is why this image has that ‘obviously colourised’ look about it.


And finally, there’s this image:

kharkov before and after strapped

This was done from a pretty small original and the focus is a little hazy on it. This means we can’t get as much detail coming through the colour.

However, if you’re worried about how well a photo will turn out, just email me with a copy and I’ll give you an honest assessment of how it’s going to look.


Why do some pictures cost more than others to colourise?

It’s all down to how complex an image is and how much time I’ll have to spend painting all the individual areas of colour. For example, this portrait of Hemingway is actually pretty straight forward as there are only around 5 main areas of colour and these are all really well-defined:

hemmingway original 600

We’ve only really got his skin, beard/hair, 2 tones on his sweater and his eyes to do. There is some fiddliness involved with picking out all the stray beard hairs and getting the skintone looking natural but other than that, it’s a pretty simple proposition (and one that turned out really well because of the great variations in tone of the original):

 hemmingway 600 strapped

In terms of cost, this image would come in at £50.


Now have a look at this picture:

library 600 original

This is the sort of things nightmares are made of: We’ve got near 100 different books, trees (pine as well – the worst possible type!), magazine covers and loads of tiny details that all need attending to. As a result, this took a really long time to do and would probably set you back around £180.

library 600 strapped

What if I have a really complex picture and a limited budget?

Then there’s always the possibility of a partial colourisation. For example, we could just colourise the men in the photo like this:

library 600 partial strapped

That would bring the cost down to about £80. I’m personally a big fan of partial colourisations as they lead to really striking images and are worth considering even if money is not an issue.


Does image size matter?

In terms of cost, no – the level of complexity is the decider so far as cost goes. However, the size of image is really important for a couple of reasons:


A) The bigger the image, the more detail there will be and the better the end result will look,

B) Larger images print up much better.


For example, if you wanted the finished image printed off at 6″ x 8″, I’d be looking for an original that comes in at 1800 x 2400 pixels. We could try to print at that size with a lower resolution but the quality would suffer.


I have no idea what ‘resolution’, ‘pixels’ and whatnot are. Will this be a problem?

None whatsoever. All of these things are for me to worry about and so far as I’m concerned there’s no such thing as a stupid question when it comes to colourisation. So if there is something on your mind but you’re worried that I’m going to baffle you with jargon, don’t! Simply let me know what you’re having trouble with and I’ll do my best to explain it in a way that makes sense to you.


Did you colourise all the photos on this website?

Yes, it’s all my own work.


I have more questions!

Then please feel free to email me at and I’ll do my best to answer them!